Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing concern in the public health world. It refers to the ability of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites to resist the effects of antimicrobial drugs that were initially used to treat infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes AMR as one of the most significant threats to global health, food security, and development. Experts predict that it will soon become the next epidemic if significant measures are not taken to prevent its effects. In this essay, we will discuss what antimicrobial resistance is, its potential to become the next epidemic, and ten ways the public health community can help prevent this public health crisis.
AMR often occurs when antibiotics are overused, misused, or abused. With time, bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics, and treatment becomes more challenging. AMR leads to more extended hospital stays, more complicated infections, higher healthcare costs, and increased mortality rates due to a lack of effective treatment. For instance, we already have strains of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics like penicillin and methicillin. In such cases, treating an infection becomes more challenging and may become impossible.
Antimicrobial resistance has the potential to become the next epidemic because it threatens to reverse many of the progress made in modern medicine. Without antibiotics, routine surgeries and treatments for cancer, organ transplants, and other severe illnesses become very dangerous. Additionally, AMR has been linked to the emergence of new diseases, such as zoonotic diseases that pass from animals to humans.
To prevent AMR from becoming the next epidemic, the public health community must take various measures. Here are some ways in which the global public health community can help prevent this potential crisis:
1. Raise awareness of the risks posed by AMR in the community and among healthcare workers.
2. Encourage responsible use of antibiotics, including prescribing antibiotics only when necessary and appropriate.
3. Boost infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities, such as strict hygiene measures and improving sanitation.
4. Encourage the development of new antimicrobial drugs and alternative approaches to treat infections.
5. Support policies that promote antimicrobial stewardship, such as regulations to limit the use of antibiotics in agriculture and animal husbandry.
6. Encourage research to better understand the epidemiology, evolution, and spread of AMR.
7. Enhance surveillance systems to monitor the spread and prevalence of AMR in the community and healthcare settings.
8. Use antibiotics wisely: Only use antibiotics when medically necessary and use the appropriate antibiotics for the specific infection.
9. Practice good hygiene: Practice good hygiene habits such as washing hands frequently and properly, cooking food thoroughly, and avoiding sharing antibiotics.
10. Support research and development: Support research and development efforts to create new antibiotics to combat emerging infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance.